Let me tell you about my weekend – another craft fair. Not my favourite activity. The thing is, writing books, creating a whole world with quirky characters and exciting happenings, is fabulous – best job in the world. However, taking those books, and trying to persuade people to risk a few hours and read one, is very scary. But there is little point in doing one without forcing yourself to do the other. This is how it tends to go.
First of all, is the venue. Usually you’re provided with a space in a marquee, booked at immense cost, which all adds to the pressure of how many books you need to sell to not lose a ton of money. The space can vary in quality. Sometimes you’re placed next to an aggressive seller, who has set her table well over the boundaries, and has squeezed your space to a tiny square. Sometimes the organiser has been more canny, and has marked on the floor exactly where each space begins and ends. There are good pitches – towards the centre of a walkway, and bad pitches – right next to the door (because people entering the tent don’t usually want to stop and listen to your sales pitch as soon as they get inside, and if you are the last stall, they are already thinking about leaving by the time they reach you. Though last is slightly better than first.) If it’s raining, you often get drips of water plopping onto your books. If it’s dry, you sometimes get condensation (see previous sentence). Sometimes it’s really hot, and then the air becomes too thick to breathe and after a couple of hours you are very red-faced and sweaty, and no one wants to approach your stall.
After you’ve set up, you can walk round and have a look at the other stalls. These tend to vary. There is the scowling old man who sits opposite the entrance, surrounded by his wife’s knitted cardigans. There are homemade stands: twigs stuck into flowerpots hanging with necklaces; husband-made constructions that would withstand a nuclear explosion; and the carefully selected textures and colours that make up the artists’ stalls. Most stalls represent hours upon hours of work, and everyone is feeling slighty desperate about trying to sell things, and trying hard not to show it.
There is lots of tension involved with selling books. Unlike jewellery and knitwear and paintings, they aren’t sold by how good they look, so the only way to sell is to tell people what they’re about. Not easy. You sit there, watching for potential customers, hoping for a flicker of eye-contact. It’s very bad form to start speaking while they’re looking at your neighbour’s stall, so you have to wait until they have moved into the space you ‘own’. These are moments of real tension, as you watch a couple meander around the tent, buying trinkets at other stalls (so they’re spending money today), they look intelligent (so sure to be readers); they walk nearer while I wait, ready with my patter, throat dry with nerves, waiting while they examine the stall nearest to me then, at last, they begin to approach, they glance towards my books, they turn to each other to make a comment, I begin to approach them and – they leave the marquee. I breath out, sip some water, wait for the next person.
And then there are the low points. The customer who arrives right after you’ve taken a swig of coke who you greet with a loud belch (she didn’t buy a book). Or the customers who arrive with a football team of uncontrolled kids who touch everything and ruin your display, and probably can’t read anyway. Or the owner of the small dog who lets it wee against your tablecloth. Not to mention the joys of portaloos. Or, depending on the fair, the happiness of sitting right next to where the bagpipes are playing.
However, I survived, and lots of lovely people did buy my books. There were also some interesting chats, like the one with the tiny old woman who told me she used to teach Camilla PE, and the palace have done wonders with her appearance, and she was always a very lazy girl who couldn’t do a handstand properly.
The problem is, selling books is personal. Every rejection feels like a put-down, and every sale brightens my day. So why not take a look at my books today – if you buy one, you’ll cheer me up immensely.
Thank you for reading. All my books are available on Kindle and in bookshops. UK Amazon link below.